Pick 'em update Congratulations to our week three winners, The Chairman 211 and Logella, both of whom went a perfect 9-0 on the week. Each will receive a copy of Adam Jones' outstanding Rose Bowl Dreams: A Memoir of Faith, Family, and Football. Both should email me with their address to receive their prize. Looking ahead, The Chairman's perfect week makes him the new overall leader after three weeks. This week's games are posted and ready for selections.
All eyes on the RBs. Last week I weighed in on Texas' rushing game, noting a need for improvement for this year's offense to develop into a group explosive enough to keep pace in this year's Big 12. Greg Davis isn't satisfied with things yet, either. "I'm not pleased where we're at running the ball. Historically, other than 1998, we've started a little slow in the run game. And we've ended up being pretty proficient at it. Hopefully that will be the same again."
Hopefully so, but while the early returns suggest the heretofore elusive explosiveness is most likely to come from Fozzy Whittaker, there are as yet no changes in the depth chart, with Whittaker, Vondrell McGee, and Chris Ogbonnaya being listed as co-starters. To that point, McGee says "It's not necessary to know who the starter is."
Fair enough. But Texas will need to know who the gamebreaker is. Sooner, rather than later.
It's not just me... I'm not pining for an explosive running game without cause. Watching Texas' Big 12 opponents shred opposing defenses suggests the Longhorns are going to need more than just Will Muschamp to navigate this year's conference slate: They're going to need points. Lots of 'em. ESPN.com's Pat Forde has taken notice of the astonishing display of carnage wreaked by Big 12 quarterbacks so far this year:
The best quarterbacking in the country is going on in the Big 12. This is not necessarily breaking news. Almost all of the conference's dozen QBs were playing at a high level last season, and some of them for several years. But now, they've gone and taken over college football. The race to be a first-team All-American is only slightly more competitive than the race to be first-team all-Big 12.
Consider: Six of the NCAA's top seven active QBs in career passing efficiency are in the Big 12. The league also has three of the NCAA's top four in 2008 efficiency … and four of the top eight … six of the top 13 … eight of the top 24 … 11 of the top 40. Five of them are ahead of the efficiency rating that led the nation in 2007 (176.5).
Colt McCoy, of course, has been amazing, but his ability to sustain success likely depends in part on Texas' ability to ramp up the production in the running game heading forward. Look for Greg Davis' playcalling to lean heavily on the rush this coming Saturday.
Conference wars heating up. I'm not one to get tangled up in the conference wars, which too often devolve into silly exercises in chest thumping, but part of the premise of my summer narrative was that the Big 12 was going to be sufficiently loaded to warrant tempering of expectations among Texas fans. The early returns are in, and the consensus is about what we expected. ESPN's Mark Schlabach ranks the Big 12 second behind the SEC, saying:
The Big 12 offenses are as good as advertised and might be even better. Eight Big 12 teams are averaging at least 450 yards of offense per game. Missouri leads the country with 597.3 yards per game, and Texas Tech is second with 584.3. Quarterbacks Chase Daniel of Missouri and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma are leading Heisman Trophy candidates. Eight of the league's teams have unblemished records, and Kansas narrowly lost at South Florida on Friday night. Oklahoma's defense seems to be more prepared to survive in such a pass-happy league, but Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech are each capable of challenging for a spot in a BCS bowl game. Oklahoma State might be the league's biggest surprise. The league's overall depth is better, too, because Colorado, Kansas State and Nebraska are no longer pushovers. The Big 12 has considerably closed the gap on the SEC.
Whether or not the conference is hitting a peak or moving into a new era, the outlook for 2008 is equal parts frightening and exciting. Wear a helmet.